27 April 2006

Jane Siberry Simplifies

My friend, Bill, recently emailed to say he'd discovered the musician, Jane Siberry, who "has done a couple interesting things lately that I thought you might like."

He said that when she left on her latest tour she decided to sell everything (home, car, most of her clothes, etc.) and live out of a suitcase on tour (in fact she auctioned off her guitar and uses one provided by the clubs where she is playing).

I found most of this recounted in the 11 March 2006 article, Imagine no possessions, by Andrew Eaton, at Living Scotsman.

If I'm allowed to quote a paragraph on simplification that I love, it follows:
"Since the yard sale, she says, 'sometimes I feel pretty shaky.

A lot of people say, oh gosh, I'd be terrified to do what you did, and that makes me nervous.'

But, she adds, 'there's a recognition that it's brewing somewhere in their consciousness. I feel like a barometer of what's in the air.'

She believes people have too much 'material baggage', and know it.

At first, she says, 'I kept one letter from each person I love, and one or two photos, then I thought maybe I should let go of that too.

I threw out thousands of photos.

It's odd with photos, you think, here's 20 of this little girl I adore, let's reduce it to two, and then one, and then I think, well, why do I need any?

I can just go to her mother's house and look at them.'"
I also found a 28 November 2004 San Francisco Chronicle article titled Wander Woman by Sam Hurwitt that says she had two years previously "rented her home out and started couch-surfing to pay for the recording of 'Shushan,' ... and in the meantime Siberry has gotten used to her nomadic lifestyle and is trying to sell her house."

There is a quote in the article from Siberry:
"I stare at homeless people, and I try to see what the least is that you can live with," she says.

"I try to imagine how people I know would be homeless: Some people would be messy, with their shopping carts; some people would be really organized and have really nice signs."
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26 April 2006

BBC Is About to Share

Yesterday, the BBC announced its plans to rebuild its website around user-generated content, including blogs and home videos.

As part of his 'Creative Future' review of programming and content, BBC director of new media and technology, Ashley Highfield, introduced the plan "to refocus all future BBC digital output and services around three concepts - share, find and play."

The article quotes Highfield as saying, "... the philosophy of 'share' would be at the heart of what he dubbed bbc.co.uk 2.0."

Another symbiotic relationship?

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24 April 2006

March Urban Camping Spots

Here in the Netherlands, 'they' said spring would arrive four weeks late, but even at the end of March I could 'smell' spring in the air.

Yeah! I made it through the winter!

A nomadic lifestyle is much easier when the weather is warmer.

Last Friday, I believe I even caught a whiff of summer ...

March's urban camping spots were as follows: Technorati tag:

20 April 2006

Big Bucks in the Basements

Last week I heard on the BBC World Service radio program that there is an estimated 20 billion euros (or was it pounds or dollars) worth of stuff in people's basements in Germany.

If Kyle MacDonald can trade a red paperclip for one year's rent in a Phoenix duplex, just think what we could barter our basement clutter for!

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19 April 2006

Bartering a Paperclip for a House

When I titled a previous post, "Bartering: Think Big," I never imagined the concept of trading a paperclip for a house.

Kyle MacDonald did and his story makes me want to barter bigger and better.

Ten progressively bigger trades have led him from the one big red paperclip on 12 July 2005 to the one year's free rent in a Phoenix house.

But this is not THE house he is trading for.

He is working towards owning his own house through upwardly mobile trading.

It all started with an advertisement in the barter section of Craigslist.org.

Then it went like this:
  1. paperclip for fish-shaped pen

  2. pen for small ceramic doorknob with a smiley face

  3. doorknob for a Coleman camping stove

  4. stove for a generator

  5. generator for an "instant party package" — an empty beer keg, a neon Budweiser sign and a promise to fill the keg

  6. party package for a snowmobile

  7. snowmobile for an expense-paid trip to Yahk

  8. trip for a 1995 Cintas van

  9. van for a recording contract, with studio time and a promise to pitch the finished product to music executives

  10. recording contract for one year living rent-free in a Phoenix duplex
When asked what he's learned from this experience, he said,
"If you say you're going to do something and you start to do it, and people enjoy it or respect it or are entertained by it, people will step up and help you."
His attitude reminds me a tiny bit of Tony Hawks's outlook in Round Ireland with a Fridge.


On 11 July 2006, Luisa sent me an article from BBC saying that he had done it.

He traded one year living rent-free in a Phoenix duplex for an afternoon with Alice Cooper.

The afternoon with Alice Cooper got traded for a snow globe featuring the rockband Kiss.

The snow globe was traded for a Hollywood movie role, which was traded for a house on Main Street in the tiny town of Kipling in Saskatchewan province.

The last paragraph from the BBC article:
"The project has demonstrated the power of the internet and won an army of fans, including Heather and Dan who left a comment on Kyle's website saying: "Hey, what a neat planet. We're thinking of staying to see what happens next."
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13 April 2006

Our Walden

The article mentioned one of the parts of urban camping that I most enjoy, my "uncluttered life."

Part of the motto for this urban camping journey is simplification.

When I saw the Live Simple site by John December, I had another one of those "my people" experiences.

(Just a note to Mary, who emailed me with concern after my last blog post on freeganism.

No, I'm not living in the dumpster behind Loos cafe.

Dumpster divers aren't my people at this point.

I was simply amazed that someone could live for five years without buying food.)

December says that the site is his e-book, his Walden.

You can download a free copy of Walden from www.gutenberg.org.

If you have a copy of Walden and you'd like to share it, you can launch it via Book Crossing.

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12 April 2006


Yesterday the BBC World Service radio program interviewed a guy who hasn't bought food in five years because he practices 'freeganism'.

You can read the whole definition from The Free Dictionary but the general idea is, "Freeganism is the practice of minimising one's adverse impact on the environment, animals, and human lives by limiting participation in the capitalist economy."

The guy in the interview gets all of his food from dumpsters and says he eats better than he did before he quit his job and turned freegan.

It seems he gets most of his food from restaurant or grocery store dumpsters where food is discarded after the 'sell-by-date' and before the 'consume-by-date'.

The Free Dictionary says that many associate freeganism with food, but actually the concept is a "broad-based lifestyle ethic encompassing food, housing, transportation, clothing, and all other necessities of daily life."

One of their concerns involves the "enormous volume of waste generated by a society that produces more than it actually uses."

One last bit from the definition:
"Freegans place a high value on community, sharing, and mutual aid.

They tend to reject the concept of private property, reflecting a school of thought common to anarchism and popularized by the anarchist Pierre Joseph Proudhon.

Freegans see the pressure to maintain employment in order to purchase commodities and pay for necessities like food and shelter as a form of oppression.

They view the advertising-driven push to constantly purchase new commodities as a form of manipulation for profit."
I'm not a freegan ... I still very much like holding down a job and participating in capitalism ... but some of their ideas overlap mine.

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11 April 2006

Article on Urban Camping Trend

At the end of March, I received an email from Ariel Brewster, New York City-based reporter for the Columbia News Service, a features wire syndicated by the New York Times Company to over 400 different newspapers in the U.S. and Canada.

Friends-of-friends of hers, Zach Klein along with Paul and Amit, blogged about an urban camping experience they had last summer in Times Square.

She wanted to write about the phenomenon for the feature wire.

Her email said she wanted to interview all of us and, "It seems like you know something about this trend, and have great personal experiences."

So, we had a phone interview and this is the resulting article.

Overall, I'm happy with the way I'm represented.

Maybe it would have been better not to have been interviewed during the 'homesick' part of my journey.

It's realistic, but not really representative of the whole experience.

Unfortunately, my reference to the CouchSurfing Project in the interview showed up in the article as what I am doing, when it's only part of what I'm doing.

Also, www.couchsurfing.com is where "thousands of people in thousands of cities" are sharing home bases around the world.

I'm not sure why the organization was left out of the article ... but ... in any case ... it's very exciting to be at the forefront of a trend!


Published in the Cape Cod Times sports section on 20 April 2006!

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06 April 2006

One Year Off

When I spent the weekend in Haarlem at my friend Maggie's house, I noticed a book on her shelf called, One Year Off: Leaving It All Behind for a Round-the-World Journey with Our Children.

Their one-year journey makes my one-year journey seem like a cake walk!

Maggie said the author, David Elliot Cohen, and his wife:
  • quit their jobs
  • sold their house and belongings
  • took their kids out of school
  • traveled around the world for a year
  • came back to their home town
  • landed new jobs
  • bought a new house and new belongings
  • and put their kids back in school
Can you imagine doing that?

I love this quote from the beginning of his book, "Disengaging from your normal routine and establishing an entirely new way of life is a full-time job for months on end."


Other posts about get-out-of-your-box books:
  • Just one word: Walden.

  • If you travel as a tourist you risk being quarantined in the bus and quarantined in the hotel. Don't follow the formula. Try Lonely Planet's Experimental Travel.

  • The Urban Camping book tells the story of how the Tombrowski family "got-out-of-their-car." They've walked everywhere since 1998 when they sold their vehicle.

  • The Art of Travel is a collection of nine essays divided into five categories, "Departure," "Motives," "Landscape," "Art," and "Return." Apparently difficult to read, but I love the categories.

  • Dan Ho went from being a homeless nine-year-old in Guam, as a result of a typhoon, to being a successful Michigan restaurant owner who built a big Prairie School style house, to selling the house and reducing his possessions down to 55 belongings. He wrote a book called Rescue from Domestic Perfection.

  • Finding the Open Road: A Guide to Self Construction Rather Than Mass Production is a book written by young college grads who sought individuality in their career paths. They interviewed a lot of famous people. Their work has become a student movement in the USA as well as a documentary series.
So, do nomads have books? Or do they just get books deals?

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04 April 2006

February Urban Camping Spots

My friends Gail and Thaddeus have an apartment in Amsterdam.

When you come out of their apartment and go up one flight of stairs, they also have a small room, a sort of storage room with two windows, a sink, a mattress, a table and four chairs.

They offered to let me stay there two nights a week so that I can more easily manage my schedule this semester, which includes classes on Wednesday, Thursday (10:00 am), and Friday (9:00 am).

On Thursday and Friday mornings, I can come downstairs and use the shower in their apartment before going to school.

So, February's urban camping spots were as follows: I stayed 7 nights in the storage room. I spent 1 night each at the houses of friends Emma and Johan. I spent 12 nights working and camping in my studio and 10 nights staying over at Carol's house.

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